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VAM 2023: Vikram Bhatt reveals how he learnt virtual production and used it for his next film ‘1920: The Horrors of the Heart’

Vikram Bhatt at VAM 2023

AnimationXpress hosted the third edition of VFX and More (VAM) Summit & Awards on 23 and 24 March 2023 in Mumbai. The first day – hosted at The Lalit – comprised of panel discussions, and the second day – which took place at Cinepolis, Fun Republic – consisted of making-of VFX heavy films.

The summit opened on the first day with a keynote by director, producer and screenwriter Vikram Bhatt. Bhatt – who is also the founder of Harekrishna Mediatech – spoke about ‘Understanding Storytelling & Role of Technology.’ He started off with talking about using virtual production (VP) to tell stories. “My journey with virtual production started in Covid,” he said. There were restrictions to shoot at locations, so Bhatt thought “let’s try this new Mandalorian thing,” referring to the use of the VP technology to shoot this Disney+ Hotstar series. He asked some friends in the VFX industry if they knew how to use Unreal Engine, and was told by them that it is complicated. “To get my film started, I had to learn the Unreal Engine myself.” He started with YouTube and then joined a course where he learned level design, lighting, assets and material, textures and more. “At the age of 50, I managed to cram in enough for me to go and make a film virtually. I was tired of travelling to various locations and wanted to shoot the entire film on the studio floor itself. Hence I decided to use virtual production. They thought I was a madman. But I did it,” he shared. He revealed that his upcoming film 1920: The Horrors of the Heart is entirely shot using virtual production.

“When you get into the world of VFX, you get to know what VFX artists are, and the lack of respect they get. The hours and hours that they put in that dark room in front of a monitor.”

He spoke about his fears regarding the VFX industry. He shared how he met a talented VFX artist who could not learn Unreal Engine because the tech’s configuration is so expensive. He expressed his concern about VFX artists keeping up with AI, VP and the continuous updates on tools. “Our workforce, our army, is the VFX people. I think we must protect and educate this workforce.” Bhatt urged the VFX industry and the studios to form an association, pool a budget and resources, to train VFX artists and animators in Unreal Engine and more tools, train those who have the talent but no means to learn complex engines and software. He concluded by saying how there will need for specialists in the future, and that we should start training them to create a pool of artists from which VFX studios can pick the talent.

The day ended with the VAM Awards, which honoured excellence in the VFX industry.